College: Freezing Tuition

Experts believe that a tuition freeze may not work for all colleges.

Experts believe that a tuition freeze may not work for all colleges.

Lawmakers across the U.S. are considering imposing a 0% increase on tuition sticker prices, forcing institutions, and sometimes the legislature, to reconsider their budgets. We have also seen many colleges recently join the “tuition freeze” bandwagon.

But what is a tuition freeze? A tuition freeze is when a college or university locks-in a student’s tuition rates for all four years of school however, they do increase rates for each successive incoming class. In general, tuition freezes are more common among community colleges and public colleges then private four-year universities. Usually, a tuition freeze requires continuous full-time enrollment at the school. If the student takes a leave of absence or drops below full-time status, their tuition relocks at the rate in effect when they return. 

But does a tuition freeze really help students reduce costs? Many experts believe what works for some may not work for all. For example, on April 3rd a group of students from the University of Iowa headed to the state capitol building in Des Moines, pushing legislators to impose a tuition freeze. Like other public universities, the University of Iowa has dealt with decreases in state funding. In order to keep the school competitive, administrators say the financial burden has shifted from state to student, as tuition prices increase to make up for lost funding. So in this case, students anticipate state funding to make up for lost revenues from tuition freezes. The policy might keep both the university and students afloat, but if the university can’t rely on additional funding or their own reserves, this could cause trouble.

Meanwhile, in California on June 25th, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a state budget bill that aims to improve the quality and cost effectiveness of higher education by reinvesting funds in the state’s public universities. The 2013-14 budget will increase funds for the UC and CSU systems by 5%. It will also be the first part of a four-year funding plan, in which the UC and CSU systems will receive up to a 20% increase in general funds appropriations. The budget also establishes an expected four-year tuition freeze for UC and CSU residents from 2013-14 and 2016-17.

“The extra funding would allow room for up to 40,000 more students next year in the 2.4-million student community college system,” said Paul Feist, a spokesman for the chancellor’s office. Rising demand and budget cuts have shut out some 600,000 students in recent years.

Additionally, the budget requires UC and CSU systems to provide reports for graduation rates, number of community college transfer students and the number of degrees completed for first time freshman students, low income students and graduate students.

What do you think of the new state budget bill? Does it do the right things for California students? We want to hear from you!

Westface College Planning can help you navigate the college saving and funding process from start to finish. To learn how we can help you call us at 650-587-1559 or sign up for one of our Tackling the Runaway Costs of College Workshops or Webinars.

Photo Credit: Parker Knight

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